Blackpaint 140


National Gallery of Scotland (cont.)

Not an immediately exciting title, I would guess, unless you are a Scots patriot – however, I have saved a couple of really controversial observations for this bit of the review.   Here’s the first;

Titian

Titian’s work is of variable quality.  There is the Diana and Actaeon that was recently “saved for the nation” at a cost of..how much was it?  Great composition, the way he reels back with arm across face – but close up, the brushwork is, well, scrubby and scrappy – or “increasingly broken and impressionistic” as the Companion puts it.  and there’s something wrong with Diana’s head, isn’t there?  It’s too small and in the wrong position.  the Diana and Callisto, closely  resembling the Actaeon in composition, contains no such difficulties – but, somehow, the first one seems the greater picture. 

The Three Ages of Man contains a heap of fat and unappealing babies and an extremely serious young girl, peering into the face of a much older, Byronic (and near naked) man, whilst fingering a flute-type instrument in a distinctly phallic position.

The Virgin and Child with John the Baptist features a similar character as J the B, and the virgin wears a blue  and rose dress, the folds of which are brilliantly depicted in white – but somehow dominate the picture, making the rest look underpainted.  And the right arm of Venus, just risen from the sea, squeezing water  from her hair – too fat.  Colours staggering, however, in all pictures.

Leonardo

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder, recently  stolen and recovered, is on display – and again, I have to say, it’s not up to other Leonardos; the faces of both the mother and child seem odd, elongated noses, blurry features..

Raphael

No childish criticism of these three “luminous” pictures, except that Joseph in the tondo seems overly coiffured;   I love the squirming Jesus in the Virgin and Child.  Mary’s eyes don’t engage with the child’s, but seem rather to stare thoughtfully past him to the floor – it seems to me I’ve noticed this lack of engagement in other V and C’s; is it some sort of convention?

Other fantastic stuff

Beautiful, silky surfaced Rubens; a religious allegorical painting by Holbein; Stoning of St Stephen by Elsheimer, with the young man poised to fling  the big stone at the back of the kneeling martyr’s skull; the Van Der Goes Trinity Altarpiece, the legends of St.Nicholas by Gerard David…

The Impressionists

Cezanne’s The Big Trees, with its geometric, blue and brown tunnel, next to Van Gogh’s Olive Trees, with its short, diagonal brush strokes and coiling trunks and limbs, the two pictures echoing and bouncing off each other; unusual, vibrant Gauguins, Jacob wrestling the angel against burning red and the whites of the women’s headgear and the dusky pink of the ground and short, downward “tiles” of foliage in Martinique Landscape – and the Degas portrait of Diego Martelli, arms folded, on the table a spread of yellow, white and blue sketchbooks and papers that could make an abstract painting in themselves.

Finally

John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew, looking directly and intensely at you, the way that white silk dress is painted with those loose brush strokes..

And much more.  I’m going back to see it all again, as soon as I can.

Cold Blue Jug by Blackpaint

25.05.10 

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